SBD/October 23, 2013/Media

ESPN's Olbermann Sits For GQ Q&A On Return To Net, On-Air Personality

Olbermann admires late U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt's endless energy
ESPN's Keith Olbermann recently discussed a number of topics in a Q&A with Michael Hainey of GQ, including his return to the net after a lengthy absence and what his identity is. The following are excerpts from the interview:

Q: Do you believe in redemption?
Olbermann: I wound up working for ESPN again because I believe in it and because I was pursuing it. ... So I believe in it, and it's not necessarily a permanent thing, but in this case I want to try and make it as permanent as circumstances will allow.

Q: Do you suffer from fear?
Olbermann: Television is a mental illness. Wanting to be on television is a mental illness. ... If you need to be approved of simultaneously by more people than are in this room now, there's a problem. I don't know what would happen if television -- or fame -- stopped tomorrow for all the people who are pursuing it, what they would do.

Q: People out on the streets...
Olbermann: You find yourself at various times in your life being fearful, because you don't know how to function in some environment in which you're not being applauded by a thousand people or more at once. So many times I've looked back with a kind of sympathetic disgust at my personal conduct till age 40.

Q: What do you think of the whole generation that's stolen your act?
Olbermann: They missed the point.

Q: What president would you be if you were a president?
Olbermann: Teddy Roosevelt. Endless energy. I don't have it.... (pause) This is how bad leaving SportsCenter was for the psyche. It was like my last crisis, psychologically, and then fortunately I got some great therapy. Dan (Patrick) had once told me he could never leave ESPN, because he couldn't spend the rest of his life answering the question "Why did you leave ESPN?" So I stepped out from this town under a dome, and here was "Hey, missed you on SportsCenter!" It killed me, until I remembered a conversation that I'd had when I met Elizabeth Montgomery (of Bewitched). ... She said, "Be gracious and you remember as they remember, and be honored." I forgot this until about a year into this torture of "When will you go back to SportsCenter?"

Q: What is your identity then?
Olbermann: Largely, and to some degree this has been a convergence of the two personalities, because I didn't have much of one before I got into broadcasting. ... But what it has become over the years is, the television version is me with a script and a teleprompter. It's easier. Not much difference. ... That's why I have been gainfully employed doing this. I'll always deliver what an employer wants. At some point they decide the result is more trouble than they want, or they convince themselves that they have created all this success that I created for them. As in my last prominent employer at NBC, which they're learning that perhaps they were wrong about that (GQ, 11/'13 issue).
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